2. Food For My Soul
“Are you hungry? Try some food for your soul. Doug’s ‘flagship’ tune; we performed it at many of our gigs and the audience ate it up. Now it’s your turn, there’s plenty to go around.”
3. Amplified Emotion
“Since I am a ‘confirmed beach fanatic,’ Doug wrote this song for me. I view it as a highly visual personal tune that conjures up images of the many different beaches that I have visited. That’s the sound of the breaking surf of Carbon beach in Malibu, where I spent my childhood.”
“I don’t know why Doug was ‘hung up’ on the subconscious state, but he was, this song speaks of ‘The Sandman,’ who isn’t delivering the quality of dreams that the doctor ordered “What you got in store…’?
5. On The Wall
“A freshly married Japanese couple attempt to ‘consummate’ their physical relationship in the wedding bed, but the female is distracted by a ‘disturbing vision’ on the wall. The vision is ultimately diffused and they go about their business.”
6. Are You There?
“Doug tried singing this song ‘straight’ and Donn and I agreed that it wasn’t working. We suggested a ‘clown personna’ and it seemed to come to life. On a ‘high technical note,’ I remember Donn stuffing the echo chamber full of packaging blankets for the ‘are you there’ sections. Many thanks to the new defunct general telephone company for the dial tone, ring and handset abuse. That’s my niece, Kelly on screams. She’s a bit older now. So am I.”
7. Sunset Scenery
8. Mercy Call
“While Doug was writing this song in a rented Malibu beach house, a passing seagull appeared in the window and paused in flight to ‘listen’ while he performed the tune. The song is sung alternately by Daryl and Doug. The background singers were some of Hollywood’s finest. For ‘the bomb’ sound, that’s Doug scraping the EMI echo plate with a razor blade and then hitting the large steel plate with his hand. Well done, Doug!”
9. Pop’s Bag
“Doug always said ‘I’m doing my thing’ whenever his existence was a questioned, I think that this tune really sums up what Doug’s message is all about. That’s Daryl on the wah-wah clavinet solo at the ride-out along with some highly classified encrypted Morse code.”
10. Big Mike Requiem
“The intro and outro were recorded at Saint Monica’s Catholic Church in Santa Monica, California. That’s Daryl on the pipe organ and Doug on the vocal. The title refers to Doug’s good friend Mike, who has been taking way too many drugs and the congregation has declared his soul ‘brain dead.’ The church service takes a wild ride through the sauna galaxy (courtesy of Donn) and lands back at home ground where the congregation exists. That’s the ‘all clear’ tone at the end. What a trip!”
11. Your Way Too
“I called my engineer-producer friend Gary Brandt at Eir Records and asked him if he had any tapes of demos that we did around the time. After looking through his archives, he came up with this tune. It is not a finished mix, we never got around to it. However, I really like this song and included it in this album.”
Notes on Cosmosis and Sunset Scenery –
“Donn’s friend Ernie Zehms called him in the summer of 1969. He had just finished filming “One Sun,” a documentary on the damming of the Colorado river at Glenn Canyon and the formation of Lake Powell. He needed a soundtrack. So Donn, my co-conspirator since high school, called me. That Saturday morning Doug, Donn and I watched Ernie’s short film in Sunwest’s Studio A. Twelve hours later, Ernie has his soundtrack and BFI was born. The tunes ‘Cosmosis’ and “Sunset Scenery’ were borrowed from those instrumental recording sessions. How many tones can you hear at the start of ‘Cosmosis’?”
It was nearing the end of the sixties’ decade. My brothers, Doug, Daryl and I were living in Malibu, surfing and gigging around the Los Angeles area in various bands including our own. We came from a very musical family; our father Carmen Dragon was a well known symphony conductor and arranger around Hollywood, our mother Eloise, a coloratura soprano singer and our two sisters, Carmen and Kathy played harp and flute respectively. I was the youngest of the brothers. I played drums and was dabbling with recording equipment and photography. My brothers played great keys. Daryl also played the vibes, bass, guitar and a few other instruments.
That all being said, it was a great time for music. The Beatles with George Martin opened up a big door to just about anything musically and production-wise. Hendrix was blowing minds with his trip and Zep defined new parameters for rock and roll. Around the same time The Doors and others were freaking us out with their hypnotic sounds. Doug and I thought it was time for us to enter the arena and put something ‘serious’ on tape.
We hooked up with my high school buddy/recording engineer Donn Landee who was working at Sunwest Recording Studios in Hollywood at the time. We worked out a ‘spec deal’ and arrived in the off hours, sometimes after or club gigs around 3 am and working ‘til morning. We became more ‘driven’ as we laid down more tracks; Doug and I had never explored this territory before, especially in the vocal department. I was playing my usual ‘jazzy’ style with Doug laying down the groove on the keys. Doug was singing the low parts and I was experimenting with high-layered harmonies. Donn added his great recording and production ideas and as we listened to the playbacks we were all fired up! There was a unique sound coming from the JBL control room speakers…
We called it BFI, for “Blue Forces Intelligence!” Don’t ask me why. We were certain we had a ‘hit.’ We shipped the finished product all over Hollywood to the major labels with no luck. We got comments from the big boys like “Great production but I don’t hear a hit” to “We can’t fit it into a niche.” After a few months we became discouraged and shelved the tapes. It was fun recording, but The Dragons and the BFI project seemed destined to obscurity.
Advance the clock 37 years…I get an e-mail from Strictly Kev, DJ Food from Ninja Tune, and he says he loves the song ‘Food for my soul’ by The Dragons and wants to include it in his latest mix. He found the song on a surf film soundtrack album that I produced that was released in the mid seventies. I had put that one BFI tune on that record because the film’s producer, the late Hal Jepsen, really liked it. I told Kev there was more that was recorded at the same time period and sent him MP3s of the album. He liked what he heard. All I had in my possession was a copy of the master tape. I tracked Donn down after losing contact with him decades ago. I asked him if he knew where the BFI master tapes were. He said he was “looking right at them.” Miraculously, the tapes were ‘rescued’ in 1974 by his friend, Howard Weiss, when the tape vault at Sunwest was being cleaned out and they were headed for the trash.
We’re up to speed. “BFI” is finally released. My brothers, Donn and I couldn’t be more pleased. In the early ‘70s, we three brothers all ‘did some time’ with the Beach Boys backup band. In the mid seventies, Doug moved to Hawaii. Around ’79-80, he made a name for himself gigging around Australia. Daryl went on to join Toni Tennille as “The Captain,” and I am still producing and recording bands and now doing music television, occasionally drumming and ‘beaching it’ in the Santa Barbara area. Donn went on to make records at Warner Brothers with Ted Templeman, Lenny Waronker and Ed Van Halen. He is currently doing Internet commerce and still photography.
There’s a lesson here to be learned…Don’t throw your old master tapes away!
– Dennis Dragon, Spring 2007
All tunes written by Douglas Dragon except Sunset Scenery – written by Douglas & Dennis Dragon, copyright 1969. All tunes published by Just Isn’t Music on behalf of Electric Surf Music (BMI)
Doug – Pianos, Organs, Harpischord, Chamberlin, Electric Piano, Clavinet, Tenor and Bass Voices, morse code
Dennis Dragon – Drums, Percussion, Alto and Soprano Voices, oscillator
Daryl Dragon – Bass, Clavinet Solo, Vibes, Pipe Organ, alternate
Lead Vocal on “Mercy Call”
Steve LeFever – Bass
Bob West – Bass
Eddie Carter – Electric Guitar on “Food…”
King Erisson – Congos on “Food…” and “Sundown”
Carmen Dragon – Harp on “Cosmosis”
The Sunset Blvd., Kids’ Chorus – Vocals on “Mercy Call”
The Hollywood Girls – Vocals on “Food…” and “Mercy Call”
Keith Goldsmith – Guitar on “Your Way Too”
Leslie May and Diane – Vocals on “Your Way Too”
BFI was Produced by Doug, Dennis and Donn
Recorded @ Sunwest Recording Studios, Hollywood, California 1969-70
Engineered by Donn Landee
Additional Field Recording by Dennis Dragon
Mixed by Donn and Dennis @ DCI Digital, Pacific Palisades, CA.
Mastered by Donn and Dennis @ Youngman Labs, Montecito, CA.
Bonus Track, “Your Way Too” (ruff mix)
Engineered and Produced by Gary Brandt, Doug and Dennis @ Sound City Studios, North Hollywood, California 1972
Recorded in Studio A at Sunwest Recording from late 1969 through 1970. Mastered on either a 3M 56 eight-track or an Ampex MM-1000 sixteen-track using 206 at 30ips. Mixed to an Ampex AG-440a on 206 at 15ips with Dolby A. console was a 20-input Electrodyne with two patchable pan pots. There were two live chambers and one mono EMT plate. Delay and phasing effects were via variable-speed tape machines. Auxilliary equipment included equalizers, filters, compressors, oscillators and noise gates.
It was usually too hot at night in the studio because we couldn’t run the air conditioner since the compressor was so loud outside that neighbor Beula Sawyer would complain!
Humans and others without which BFI couldn’t or wouldn’t have happened:
Ernie Zehms, The Pacific Ocean, clowns in general, Ham radio, the PCH, Howard Weiss, the Malibu La Costa Beach Club, Carmen and Eloise Dragon, Gary Brandt, Santa Ana Winds, DJ Foods, Southern hemi swells, Caroline Fetzer, gasoline, Roger Dollarhide, Malibu fires and floods, “old 35”, the laundramat, bananas, Farfisa organs, Gretsch drums, Fender Basses, Betty “Sam” Thompson, young girls in general, VW buses, sunsets, Samohi, Jack Spina, two-stoke Japanese motorcycles, “The” UFO sighting, the “happy pouring man”, Pat Boone, Saint Monica’s church, orgasms, Zuma Beach, Myles Weiner, Neumann microphones, indoor plumbing, GOD (as usual)
642 de Courcelle, Suite #404, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H4C 3C5
Published by Just Isn’t Music (p) and © Ninja Tune 2007
Made in Canada
A&R: Strictly Kev and Simon Skevington
Licensing: Adrian Kemp
Album Notes: Dennis Dragon
Photos by: Donn Landee
Dragons logo and layout: Openmind www.myspace.com/thedragonsbfi///